Plans for a rail network linking the Gulf countries have been pushed back three years to 2021 and could face further delays, according to reports.
The National cited the UAE’s minister for infrastructure development Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi as saying the decision to push the 2018 deadline back was taken at a meeting of transport ministers in April.
“We know for sure that 2018 was not a possible date, but we just wanted to have a ceiling,” he was quoted as saying.
The minister indicated further delays were possible depending on the appetite of each member state.
“In principle, we agreed on 2021 … That is the target. Whether we can possibly achieve or not, that would depend on the internal plan of each country.”
The UAE’s Etihad Rail announced in January that it was suspending the tendering of the second phase of its network that would have linked with the Saudi and Omani borders. This forced Oman Rail to revise its own plans, which now focus on linking key ports and mines.
However, even years prior to this the 2018 deadline had been considered unrealistic by many.
Al Nuaimi described the suspension by Etihad Rail as “logical because you simply cannot build your part and wait for others to start”.
But he said the country would not necessarily wait for other countries before completing its own project.
“If we are to start our own network without looking into a linkage with the GCC we have a different plan. But if we are to link along with them, then we will have to wait and see their outcome.”
GCC states are expected to decide this year or next year whether the 2021 deadline is achievable.
“For us, we would like to see a complete network by 2021, but it is a decision that we have very little to input. It’s a decision of the GCC countries if they really want to have plans completed. Our part with the GCC is complete. Now we really need to know if they are as serious as much as we are,” the official said.